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Chicago Tribune  Arts & Fun  October 20, 1974 
Section 6  Page 23 


These ‘wheaties' 
really make cents 

By Roger Boye 

HERE'S A question from 
the numismatic mailbox: 

Q.-I visited a coin store 
in the Loop and saw Lincoln 
pennies dated in the 1950s on 
sale for 3 and 4 cents each. 
The salesman called the pen-
nies "wheaties," What's so 
special about these 20-year- 
old pennies to make them 
worth 4 cents? - L.K. 

A.-Lincoln cents made 
from 1909 until 1958 carry the 
design of two ears of wheat 
on the reverse, and thus are 
often referred to as "wheat-
ies" or "wheat ear" cents. 
Starting in 1959, the 150th an-
niversary of Lincoln's birth, 
the design of the Lincoln Me-
morial was placed on the 
reverse of the cent piece. 

"Wheaties" are fast disap-
pearing from circulation in 
the Chicago area. Most coin 
collectors report receiving 
only one or two a month in 
change. 

Even "common date" wheat 
ear cents are becoming a 
"collector's item." Some coin 
dealers will pay from 1 1/2 to 
2 cents each for common 
date wheat ear cents, and 
about 2 1/2 cents each for com-
mon date wheat ear cents 
with "S" [San Francisco] 
mint marks. The 3-to-4-cents- 
each sale you saw is a typ-
ical dealer selling price for 
wheat ear cents. 

Remember, too, that the 
age of a coin does not neces-
sarily indicate its value. A 
1955 "double die" cent [the 
date appears twice because 
of a minting error] sells for 
as much as $385 in uncircu-
lated condition. Or a 1950-D 
[for Denver] uncirculated 
nickel sells for about $10. 

The value of a coin is 
largely the result of supply
and demand. For example, a 
1970-D uncirculated half- 
dollar sells for about $21. A 
1971-D uncirculated half- 
dollar is worth little more  
than 50 cents. 

Why? Only 2.1 million half- 
dollars carry a 1970 date and 
Denver mint mark. However,
302.1 million half-dollars 
have a 1971 date and "D" mint 
mark. 

Q.-I am going to sell 
some silver coins. Should I 
wash them before I do?-R. 
H.

A.-No. Coins should be 
cleaned only by an expert. 
Coins cleaned by amateurs 
are easily identified, and the 
value of such coins to collec-
tors is diminished. 

Q-I didn't think there 
was silver in our nickels. 
But a friend tells me there 
are silver nickels, and they 
are valuable-F.J. 

A.-Nickels made in the 
United States today contain
one-fourth nickel and three- 
fourths copper, and no 
silver. 

However, from mid-1942 
thru 1945, the government 
made nickels containing 35 
per cent silver, 56 per cent 
copper, and 9 per cent man-
ganese. Nickel, a crucial 
war material, was eliminat-
ed. Most dealers will pay at 
least 20 cents for circulated   
silver "war nickels."

Depending on the dates and mint
marks, uncirculated war nickels
with 35 per cent silver sell 
from $1.25 to $10 each.